Wherever the Road Leads

Drinking…

…and the Church of God

 

In my never-known-to-be-humble opinion, drinking alcohol to excess – being an alcoholic – is a choice. Each day is a brand new day. Each day each individual makes a brand new conscious decision to reach for the bottle.

In general terms and in the above-described opinion, there is nothing wrong with alcohol, mostly. Unfortunately, it falls into the 80/20 category. That is, 80% of alcohol is consumed by 20% of those who drink.

Some prescribe to the theory that alcoholism is a disease. I’m sure there are some very learned people, passionately and with statistics who could present their case until the cows came home and never change my opinion one whit. Don’t try to lay no boogie-woogie on the king of rock-n-roll.

However, if calling it a disease will stop one single person from drinking and turn that life around, then let that person call it Chicken Pox.

It’s personal, strictly personal. One cannot quit drinking because he should, because his wife wants him to, or his mother, or because he’s spending money he doesn’t have or because it’s ruining his health and his life. One can quit only when there is a personal desire to stop.

Religion is another issue that is deeply personal.

I was late to the parade, but I did make it eventually. I had a bout of chicken pox that needed curing. I tell people that I got Saved, then jumped on a plane. At that time, I had accepted a job where travel was 100%; I was home every second weekend, that was it. When I landed in Huntsville Alabama, became a husband and a step-father, it was important to get us settled into a church. We became members of Morningside Baptist Church and both of the children made the decision to accept Christ as their personal Saviour, and both were Baptized.

There was some good preachin’ in Huntsville, but then I moved on. I tried to find a church where I felt comfortable when I lived in Chicago but nothing seemed to feel right. Now, this advances my theory that religion is deeply personal, as I attended some auditorium-style churches with thousands in attendance. So, thousands liked it but I didn’t. I’ll let the statistics speak for who’s ‘right’ and who’s ‘wrong’.

Even after moving back South I struggled. I tried tiny rural churches with twenty in attendance, to auditorium-style churches in Dacula, Buford and Gainesville’s Free Chapel where you have to take a shuttle bus from the church to where your vehicle is parked. Not every sermon can be for every person, but occasionally I like to believe that the preacher is talking to me personally. Hard to imagine a personal message when you can best see him on mammoth TV monitors and with three thousand others in attendance.

I got comfortable though, at the local Methodist Church. Whodathunk I’d ever be a Methodist? The preacher is very, very good. A passionate man. He’s a passionate man, though, amongst a detached congregation. I enjoyed the pomp and ceremony of the Methodists, the church was beautiful and the gowned choir was remarkable. The preacher remembered you by name as he shook your hand on the way out but after two years, he was about the only one in that church who knew my name.

Along came The Hare-Brained Scheme where I met my neighbor Roger, the engineer from Arkansas, who invited me to his church, Faith Baptist. I hadn’t been to church on a Sunday night in…. well, maybe it’s truthful just to end the sentence right there. I so much enjoyed the morning service that I returned that night. Faith Baptist is alive. And the people are the most friendly folks I had ever met in a church. What a HUGE difference from the Methodists. Faith Baptist has greeters in the parking lot waiting to welcome folks. It didn’t take long before I had abandoned the Methodists, certainly not because of the Methodist preacher, who is wonderful, but because of the congregation.

Perhaps the biggest difference in philosophies was explained in “Pollyanna”, a best-selling 1913 novel by Eleanor H. Porte and a subsequent 1960 Disney movie. The philosophy from the pulpit was to “give ’em hell” on a Sunday morning, blast the congregation with enough fire and brimstone to last through the week. What I began to notice at Faith Baptist was that religion wasn’t something you went to hear about on a Sunday morning, it was a lifestyle. And these folks believed it and lived it.

Among the many friendly and devoted people that I met at Faith Baptist, was this woman…

cog

… who shall remain nameless except to say that her initials are Deborah Knight and her gallery is here. To my great surprise, this woman, with her natural dyed-blonde hair and make-up, sporting a modern animal-print outfit complete with matching accessories, was raised Church of God.

Church of God????

My impression of Church of God was women with their grey hair in a bun wearing Little-Mouse-On-The-Prairie, floor-length dresses and certainly no make-up. Dyed blonde hair?? May you be struck down dead. To validate that impression, a couple of years ago I was invited by a co-worker to attend the Flowery Branch Church of God in nearby Flowery Branch, Ga., as her son had been Saved. I enjoyed the service. While it was definitely along the lines of my grey-hair-in-a-bun impression, this small church was alive!!

So I was quite curious to see a service where Deborah is still a member, at the Monroe Church of God, in Monroe, Ga. On a recent Sunday, we went. Things sure have changed at the Church of God. There wasn’t a hair-bun in sight – plenty of hair, a lot of it blonde (thanks to Clairol), and most ALL of it teased. There were rouged cheeks, red lips and colorful nails.

But that was an observation that took four minutes. The rest of the time was spent noticing that if Faith Baptist was alive in the Word, these folks were on fire.

No, the thought does not end there. Part two to follow.

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